Part 1: The Changing Face and Reality of Digital Stores

Vivek Agrawal

Vivek Agrawal, Vice President of Digital Stores, Skava

In this two part series, Skava’s very own VP of Mobile and Digital Commerce, Vivek Agrawal speaks on the role of in-store commerce experiences. Agrawal discusses the  major technology and operational challenges that retailers are facing with recommendations for Black Friday this year.

Q: What are the challenges you see retailers having today on their in-store strategy?

A: From a challenges standpoint there are multiple levels. If you look at it from a technology standpoint, it has to do with how to make your ecommerce infrastructure available in-store.

At the end of the day, from a user experience standpoint, you want to drive consistency across all these experiences. So how do you make sure there’s connectivity on what’s available on ecommerce than what’s in-store or vice versa, or between stores, etc. So I think from a technology perspective, that’s a big challenge.

Then, on the operational side of things, a lot of retailers are now solving their connectivity issues – a great bandwidth for the Internet, not only for associates, but also for the consumers walking in-store. A lot of the functionality they need for in-store to work is for connection to work seamlessly.

The second operational challenge is how do you reduce friction from a checkout standpoint?

In order for consumers to make a purchase, they need to walk up to a POS because majority of these articles have security tags on them. So, there’s that kind of challenge that can’t be overcome. It’s not technology, it’s purely operational issues, and it’s just how the space is right now.

Some of the other things out there are that store layouts aren’t consistent; they keep changing all the time. Which means, certain things like navigation or having predictability around where stuff is located and it needs constant updates in the system. That’s a lot of effort and people aren’t staffed to manage that.

Q: How do you think retailers or store managers should prepare employees for holiday season shopping events that are coming up?

A: The reality is that when its this peak of shopping times, there will always be less focus on the digital channels and more on staffing enough service on cash registers. Because during that period, its all about getting customers in and whatever they want to buy in those limited number of hours and being able to process as many customers as possible.

But for some brands, it’s key. For instance, for Apple it’s a peak period where their digital in-store gets used the most. So, depending on what kind of things you have to offer, it’s going to vary, the effort is going to vary a whole lot. So mPOS is probably one of the most common use cases where things just have to work, so employees need to understand how to scan the product and how to check them out. It all has to do with checkout.

Q: How do you see retailers enabling consumers in-store?

A: Until some of the operational challenges like network reliability and security tags where customers can start to check themselves out, until that happens, this going to be the reality of the situation because one of my views is that over the next year to 2 years, brands are going to want to allow your mobile brand applications to convert into an in-store mode when in-store

And that’s going to go through its own lifecycle before it ever gets to the phase of checkout. So I think we’re a couple of years away from that.

Things are certainly starting to move in that direction, enabling the consumers to interact with you not only when and where, but more importantly how they want to.

In the how part, they’re going to have to enable the consumers device to perform all sorts of store functions and make them, in essence, the store associate for themselves.

Read Part Two: The Changing Face and Reality of Digital Stores 

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